22 September 2020
The CBI has responded to the Prime Minister’s Commons statement where he has laid out new coronavirus measures in England.
Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said:
“A second national lockdown would be devastating for our economy, so it’s right to prioritise bringing infections under control.
“But there can be no avoiding the crushing blow new measures bring for thousands of firms, particularly in city centres and for our hospitality sector employing over 4 million people. It is vital that all announcements of restrictions go hand in hand with clarity on the business support that protects jobs.
“A clear timetable is welcome, but six months will come as a shock to many. Every possible step should now be taken to bring that horizon forward. This requires a turbo charged testing regime to help control the virus quickly.”
On changes to return to workplace guidance, she said:
“Renewed advice to work from home where possible will keep our town and city centres under great economic pressure, just as people were starting to make their way back. While action is necessary, it comes at a serious price.
“Remote working has brought real benefits to people and businesses, but we also lose a lot from missed human connections in the workplace.
“Businesses have bent over backwards to make their workplaces COVID-secure and are ready to welcome staff back as soon as allowed.”
On 10pm closures for hospitality, she said:
“Our pubs, cafes and restaurants have had it hard throughout the crisis. Earlier closing times will be another bitter pill and it’s clear this sector will need more help over a longer period.”
On a business support plan for the autumn, she said:
“There must now be a new plan to support businesses this autumn. This should start with a successor to the Job Retention Scheme and allowing cash-strapped businesses to defer their VAT payments from the last quarter – a no-brainer given this latest blow to our economy.”
On a new national testing challenge, Carolyn said:
“Testing is currently our single biggest weapon against the virus. It’s time for a united national push to turbo charge testing capabilities.
“Firms stepped up when PPE and ventilators were in short supply. They are ready to do the same to accelerate testing capability. Private sector capacity matched with agile government procurement could be transformational.
“The prize is huge - fewer outbreaks, more people safely back in workplaces, and greater confidence across the economy, from our high streets to our airports.”